Seymour Hersh is the journalist who broke the story of the My Lai massacre, a Pulitzer prize winner. He’s got a new book out. Expect to see it rubbished extensively on TV.
Evidence of prisoner abuse and possible war crimes at Guantánamo Bay reached the highest levels of the Bush administration as early as autumn 2002, but Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, chose to do nothing about it, according to a new investigation published exclusively in the Guardian today.
The investigation, by the veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, quotes one former marine at the camp recalling sessions in which guards would “fuck with [detainees] as much as we could” by inflicting pain on them.
Hersh provides details of how President George Bush signed off on the establishment of a secret unit that was given advance approval to kill or capture and interrogate “high-value” suspects—considered by many to be in defiance of international law—an officially “unacknowledged” programme that was eventually transferred wholesale from Guantánamo to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
A CIA analyst visited Guantánamo in summer 2002 and returned “convinced that we were committing war crimes” and that “more than half the people there didn’t belong there. He found people lying in their own faeces,” a CIA source told Hersh.
A senior intelligence official told Hersh: “I was told [by FBI agents] that the military guards were slapping prisoners, stripping them, pouring cold water over them and making them stand until they got hypothermia.”
The secret “special access programme” facilitating much of the mistreatment of prisoners—widely held to have contravened the Geneva convention—was established after a direct order from the president.
Hersh reports that a secret document signed by Mr Bush in February 2002 stated: “I determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaida in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world.”
But in case there’s anyone out there thinking “Well, Americans raping Iraqi children is OK if it makes America safer”, consider the following insightful comments from a CIA analyst about Guantánamo Bay:
Two former administration officials who read the analyst’s highly classified report told me that its message was grim. According to a former White House official, the analyst’s disturbing conclusion was that “if we captured some people who weren’t terrorists when we got them, they are now”.
So, who’s going to vote for torture this November?